Sunday, September 23, 2007

Simply Romantic Nights

One of the best purchases I ever made was a few years ago at a Christian bookstore. It was a boxed set of date ideas for married couples called Simply Romantic Nights, produced by Family Life. Steve and I have enjoyed using the ideas for a few years now, though we didn’t go on many dates when we lived in Scotland.

Family Life divided their ideas into ones that wives do to meet their husband’s needs, and ones that husbands do for their wife’s needs. The goal is to do one date every other week, and alternate who’s planning each one. The set (done that way) lasts a year, and has a special anniversary date as an extra feature. We have not been so regular with our dates, so we still haven’t finished the complete set.

Steve had invited me on a date last night, and asked me to dress up for it. I was surprised when we pulled up to a local river. His dad arrived a few minutes later with his canoe, and I realized our dinner was to be on the water! We carefully got into the boat and just before we began rowing, Steve turned on some Scottish bagpipe music! (Yes, he’d brought a boombox with us in the canoe!)

We paddled for 20 minutes, enjoying the beauty of the trees, mountains and water. When we stopped to eat, I found that Steve had brought some of my favorite foods! We feasted on pita bread and hummus, crackers and Brie cheese, sparkling white grape juice (in goblets!), root beer, fried chicken, and finished with Irish crème Cadbury chocolate. And this was all by candlelight. Wow!

It was quiet on the river and I relished the chance to talk with Steve. He had read an article on Mother Teresa (from TIME magazine) in order to discuss it with me (I’d read it earlier). We talked about books I’m reading, and the class he’s teaching at church. In some ways, it was easier to talk because we weren’t facing each other. We saw a turtle, the beautiful moon, and trees growing right out of the rock cliff. When we returned to shore, we had a few minutes to pray and then his dad arrived to retrieve the canoe.

This was only one of many terrific dates Steve has planned for me. And mine have been fun to do for him (but not as publishable). I’ll hopefully write about a few more in days to come. I recommend this set for any married couple – it’s awesome!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Flexible Teaching

Homeschooling is going great. One of my frustrations when I taught public school (sixth grade) was that I had short amounts of time with each class and I had to cover exactly what the school district told me to. It made it pretty difficult to do anything creative or exploratory. And one of the few times that I did let the kids explore, I got yelled at by the vice-principal.

I had taken my class downstairs to the sidewalk and let them draw large circles using chalk and string. Then I had them measure the circumferences and diameters of their circles using string, and write down their figures on paper. We had quite a few pairs of numbers from all the various circles we’d drawn, and I asked them to use a calculator and find the ratio of circumference to diameter. Everyone had an answer very close to 3.

My 11- and 12-year-olds had just discovered “pi” for themselves. If I simply taught the formula “circumference = pi times diameter” everyone (remotely engaged) would ask “What’s pi? Where did it come from?” But by having them make their own circles and their own measurements and their own calculations, I (hopefully) showed them that pi is a number that just is. It is the beautiful true ratio occurring naturally in every circle.

Our vice-principal came outside just then, though, and was quite cross with me (in front of my class) for putting chalk on the sidewalk (we all know how horrible that is!) We spent the last rushed minutes of class-time ferrying water back and forth from the bathrooms to wash off our offensive circles.

Anyway, all to say that I love teaching at home, where I can be flexible and innovative without anyone’s permission. I can spend as much time as I like on a phonics game or a sawdust exploration time. We can learn measuring skills through real cooking instead of word problems in a mathbook. We can read “There’s an Alligator Under My Bed” five days in a row and make “alligator bait” (cookies) or jump around the room on pillows to keep safe from the “dangerous alligator in the water” (8-month-old Ethan). At least for kindergarten, this is the right choice for us!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

To my kids...

If I were to die tonight, I would hope that you would…

Remember my laughter

Forgive me for my angry outbursts

Remember cuddling together as we read books

Fall in love with Jesus and commit your life to him

Know that I loved my family so much it aches

Forgive me for my depression

Remember my hugs and kisses

Respect Daddy better than I have done

Be silly and enjoy making others smile

Remember cooking together (bread, cinnamon rolls, playdough, oatmeal, etc.)

Know that you are such a precious gift from God

Treasure your heritage and tell stories about our family

Love each other – siblings are lifelong friends

Remember singing – loudly, softly, in worship, in laughter

Know that I love hearing your own singing and story-telling

Remember that every night I make up songs for you about your bedtime story, Bible story, or what happened today

Remember that we spent great times together as a family

Forgive me for not modeling prayer and Bible-reading for you

Know that I hated spanking you

Remember smoothies!!

Remember sleeping in a tent together and watching meteors

Bedtime Prayers

September 5, 2007

Until now, I’ve prayed with Naomi and Josiah each night as I tuck them into bed. This morning in school, we read the paragraph beginning with Mark 1:35 about Jesus getting up early and going somewhere quiet to pray. So tonight I asked the kids to think of who they’d like to pray for.

To help Naomi with ideas, I suggested the name of someone we know who “does not love Jesus.” Naomi was baffled. Someone doesn’t love Jesus? She asked me why, and I told her that teachers who didn’t love God had told this person bad things about God. Now she was really confused.

She said, “How can that be? Teachers are supposed to teach you about God!” As she’s only been exposed to me (as her kindergarten teacher) and her Sunday school teachers, she couldn’t conceive of a teacher not loving God.

After we prayed together, she asked me to tell her more about these “teachers who don’t love God” later. I asked her what she meant and she said she wanted to know exactly which teachers don’t love God. Ah… here comes the beginning of difficult reality. I hate to burst her idealistic bubble and tell her that the majority of people don’t know or love Jesus. But maybe that will be an impetus for prayer and evangelism.

God, please guide my words and actions, and may we be a light for you.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Naomi had her first day of kindergarten two Fridays ago! She loved it so much that she wanted to do more school the next day, and couldn't understand why we take Saturdays off ("I know we don't do school on Sundays because we go to church," she said.)

I have the aim of reading through Mark with the kids, so that first day, they learned about John the Baptist. Then they both did a coloring/listening activity to learn about Vivaldi. They heard a little about the man and a little about Venice while listening to "Spring" and coloring a picture of Venice. Then we danced to the music, imagining different "Spring" pictures to go with the music. I'd like to make that a weekly part of school.

Then we did an alphabet game where the kids walked around the room, stepping on letter squares, until they heard the music stop. They called out to me the name of the letter they were standing on (or the sound that it makes) and then we kept going.

For math, we're just doing free exploration for a while so the kids get used to describing things and learning about various characteristics. Our first activity was making playdough and playing with it. (Although we also read a picture book that involved counting.)

Later with Naomi, I did the first lesson in a learning-how-to-read book, and an art lesson from "Drawing with Children."

I'm feeling very overwhelmed -- not with how much I NEED to teach, because I have no doubt that my kids will learn what they're expected to -- but with how many great ideas are out there. I've checked out a bunch of books from the library, and want to do everything! My next task is to pare it down to just a couple books and then go with those, so I don't drown myself in ideas!

I'm trying to find a support group in the area to join, so Naomi has kids to see regularly. And I'm also trying to find more information about various teaching methods and philosophies so I can have a long-term framework to work within.

Ethan (8 months) has five teeth now. He's also holding onto our push-train and walking around while pushing it. I can't believe it. The kid seems to be born on his feet. Will he walk before he's a year old?